This is the final instalment in my blog series about how to become a music producer (here are parts 1, 2, 3 and 4). This one goes into the qualities and skills you need.

The skillset for a music producer is a very varied one. Some people think you just need to know the technical side of how to work a compressor or place a microphone, but honestly, that’s just a small per centage of the job requirements.

On a day-to-day basis, I am all of these things:

* a producer
* a composer
* a recording engineer
* a session musician
* a programmer
* a multi-instrumentalist
* a mixing engineer
* a songwriter
* an arranger
* a fresh pair of ears
* a friend
* an ideas person
* a problem solver
* a very tactful person
* a motivator
* a soundboard
* a safe space
* a communications expert
* a therapist
* a hub
* a man in the know
* an organiser of ideas
* a very very quick thinker
* my own accounts manager
* my own secretary
* my own marketing manager
* my own social media manager
* my own website updater
* and…er….a blog writer.

Each one of these things is kind of essential. For example, if you’re great at the technology side of it but not an approachable, friendly person, it won’t work. Or if you are great at the music side of things but don’t have a can-do attitude it won’t work.

Finally, here are some tips I’ve learnt over the past ten years:

Be Reliable
In an industry where people are anything but reliable, make sure you stand out by delivering what you promise, in good time. If people know they can trust you, they will come back, I promise.

Be Honest
Again, there are a lot of bullshitters out there and I pride myself on not being one of them. I don’t claim to have worked with a loads of famous artists and I won’t promise that your song will appear on the next Beyonce album, but I will promise that I will deliver what I say I will, and do the best work I possibly can. People appreciate that.

Be Communicative
Never go quiet on a client. Answer their messages promptly and let them know what you’re up to if you’re working away in the background. If there is any problem with meeting a deadline or you’re struggling with a particular project, let the client know. They will appreciate your honesty.

Be Available
If someone calls you and asks you to do a job with an ultra-quick turnaround, say yes. If you’re too busy – make time by cutting further into your evenings. If you’re worried that they’ll think you’re not busy enough because you’ve made yourself available at short notice, get over yourself; you’re just doing yourself out of work.

The client isn’t bothered about whether you have other work on or whether you’ve got a date on Thursday or whether you have evenings off. They just want you to do the job, and if you can take it on without fuss and deliver on time, that’s a happy client who will most likely come back to you again. Everyone wins (apart from your date).

Be a Perfectionist, Every Time.
Whatever I’m working on, I want it to be amazing. I have never, ever said “that’ll do” to something I’m working on. It’s got to be brilliant.

…But Not Too Much!
Know when to stop. The problem with music production, especially in this day and age, is that there are infinite possibilities and options, and you can get bogged down with the minutiae of a track that, honestly, no one will hear or care about. I often imagine it like Google Maps – sometimes, you have to zoom out and see the bigger picture.

I remember a few years ago I was sweating over whether I was using the right compressor on a snare. When I gradually zoomed out, the process was like this:

“No one listening to the song will care whether the LA2A compressor that you use on the snare is the silver edition, the grey edition or the standard edition; because no one cares if it’s an LA2A compressor; because no one cares if there is a compressor; because no one cares about the snare; because no one cares about the drums; because no one is listening to the instrumentation; because they’re too busy listening TO THE SONG.”

Be prepared to work very, very hard
At any given time, you’ll find me either in the studio or spending valuable time with my wife and two kids. I don’t have a great social life. I am often seen working 12-14 hour days – extremely early mornings, very late nights, the lot.

This kind of insane commitment is necessary to get and retain jobs, keep artists/clients happy and also to get your work perfect. You need that work ethic. I consider myself always open and can be found taking calls at 11am at night and then jumping out of bed at 5am to working on a last-minute project that needs to be finished for 9am.

Know what you’re good at and do it. People will come to you for that thing. I’m good at guitar-based music and that’s what most people come to me for. If someone asks you for something you don’t think you can deliver, then say so. Don’t just take the money and deliver substandard sounds. I get asked if I can do Dubstep, EDM, hip hop etc and I’m sure I could have a stab at it but I know guys that do them brilliantly so I pass that work onto them and they pass any pop/rock/acoustic/indie/ambient onto me. The client gets what they want, and the musician you’ve passed the job onto owes you one. Simple.

Having said that, be adaptable
R&B is not a style of music I know a lot about and some R&B/rap artists have worked with me simply because they wanted a different approach and a different sound. And it can be quite refreshing working in fields you’re not “qualified” to do – it means that you take risks and could come up with something original.

One of my favourite projects was working on a breakbeat album. The music library said they had faith that I’d come up with some good stuff and I had a lot of fun making it by warping the guitars and drums I usually work with.

Charge for your Work
I did this from the very start, when I started producing tracks by my friends. It felt very awkward, but I wanted to think with the mindset of a business from the word go, and I think my friends felt there was more value in the music when it had been paid for.

When you start out, there will be dozens of people that offer you soundtrack work right, left and centre and they’ll say it’s great promotion for you and you’ll get full credit for it and it will look great on your CV and there’ll definitely be future opportunities – AMAZING! But it’s unpaid. Give them a polite, but firm, thank you but no.

I also get a large number of artists approaching me and asking me to produce their tracks for free in return for 1% of their royalties when they’re famous. Again, thank you for considering but I need to make a living.

Value your work and other will also value it.

Stand Out From The Crowd
What are you up against? Well, recording technology has got a whole lot cheaper, easier to use and more accessible in the last 15 years which means that a lot of bands and artists now produce themselves, to varying degrees of quality. So, you’re also up against a thousand “bedroom producers” – hobbyists who will work for cheap or even free. Stand out from the crowd by looking professional. I got a good logo and website and advertised myself as the real thing rather than a hobbyist. Doing great work helps, too!

Don’t Wait For It To Happen, Just Do It
I dropped my job and went full-time in music during a recession, at a time when more and more artists were self-producing and video production companies were cutting costs on music by using cheap library music. I had no contacts in the industry. I was awarded no funding by the local council. I was (and still am) based in Derby, which is two hours from the hub of London. My only option was to start from the ground, make my own contacts, deliver great quality work time and again and work as hard as I could.

Thanks for reading this series of blogs; I hope it helps anyone thinking of getting into music production. If you have any further questions, just give me a shout!